The Montgomery County Board of Education recently , 6-2, a proposal by Crossway Community Montessori to open the county’s first public charter school. This is big news. Not only will this be the first charter school in the county, it will also be the first public Montessori school in the county.
Other surrounding jurisdictions have had public charter schools for years, with results ranging from spectacular to dismal. While Montgomery County is arriving late to the charter-school party, there is every reason to expect this particular proposal to be on the positive side of that spectrum.
For one thing, this proposal went through a lengthy review process, with significant revisions the second time through, to win approval from the Board of Education. Then there is the organization that will be operating the new charter school, , which has a proven track record in the community.
These two factors provide a certain level of confidence, but two other factors tend to be the real difference-makers: The conceptual basis of the curriculum, and the quality of its implementation. These often determine whether charter schools succeed or fail.
The strength of the curriculum is a given. The Montessori method is time-tested and has delivered superior results all over the world for more than a century. A 2006 study in the journal Science concluded: "When strictly implemented, Montessori education fosters social and academic skills that are equal or superior to those fostered by a pool of other types of schools."
As a parent of three Montessori-educated children, all of whom are thriving in many ways, including their academic performance in Montgomery County public schools, I can personally attest to the value of a Montessori education. That is, when it faithfully adheres to the science-based principles that underlie the curriculum. We have found that what distinguishes true Montessori from schools that just use the name, is how faithfully they adhere to the philosophy and curriculum. Making sure Crossway Community sticks to these rigorous standards is the key to successful implementation.
Prince George’s County, the District of Columbia, and many other public school systems have offered Montessori education as an option for years, some through public charter schools and others at the neighborhood school level. These programs have succeeded in economically stressed urban neighborhoods with large numbers of at-risk children, and in more affluent suburban communities alike. Now our county will have this option too.
School officials have said for years that they weren’t against charter schools, they were just waiting for the right charter school proposal to come along. This was it, and the Board of Education made the right call.